Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.

Can Anything Be Done for Lymphedema?

Wednesday, 23 June 2010 11:29 AM

Question: A dear friend of mine (whom I haven't seen for many years) is 65 years old. She just told me she weighs close to 500 pounds and has primary lymphedema. She explained that nothing can be done to help her. Is this true?

Dr. Hibberd's Answer:
At age 65 with lymphedema and weighing 500 pounds, your friend is in deep trouble. Lymphedema is caused by blockage of tiny, almost invisible, vascular channels that circulate lymph fluid, and return it to large lymphatic ducts in the chest area.
While infections and infestations of these ducts are not uncommon in third world countries, they are uncommon here. The obstructions can be very painful and disabling, and often relate to untreated underlying medical disorders or occasionally from post-operative local lymph node dissection surgery.
Patients with severe lymphedema need aggressive physical and occupational therapy together with correction of the underlying disorder if it can be found. They are often hospitalized for their initial care in part because of their high rate of deep venous thrombosis and blood clot formation, in addition to their increased risk of infection and circulatory problems. I recommend she seek medical attention and consider specialty vascular consultation.

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